Exercise 12: Managing tone

Before starting DPP I had always played around with the various levels and adjustments available in Photoshop without really understanding what I was doing and how each tweak had an impact on the overall image. I would get into the habit of raising the exposure and increasing the saturation slightly and then that would be it. However now that I’ve learnt about highlight clipping and adjusting the upper and lower limits of the exposure, I can see how my images can be improved further.


I took this photo (above) off the coast of Cephalonia, at Argostoli. It was a bright, hot sunny day and the water was a beautiful blue colour. When I uploaded the image to my Mac I was disappointed to see how ‘flat’ the image looked. This seemed like an ideal photo to use for this exercise.

After opening it up in Photoshop I increased the exposure slightly to brighten the image. I then increased the blacks and brightness to define the boundaries of the image qualities I wanted. Increasing the contrast gave more depth to the image, instead of it looking flat (below). However I was aware that the sky appeared to be blown out in the top right hand corner.


In an attempt to restore the blown out sky in the top right hand corner I reduced the lights, but increased the highlights using the levels tool. I also pushed the saturation up a little more to add more colour. However this started to create a problem with the water. The blue sky I wanted was restored but the detail in the hills and on the water was reduced and appeared ‘lost’ (below).

Correcting the sky

By reducing the highlights and increasing the lights on the levels tool I was able to increase exposure but avoid over-exposing (below). I found that increasing the contrast helped to improve the texture of the image and brought the water to life. The sky isn’t as blue as in the image above but I feel that it’s much more realistic of the sky when the photo was taken.

Improving the water

This exercise has helped me to realise that it is worth returning to an image and re-edit it. That even within a small set of criteria to change there are a number of different possible outcomes.

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